First released in 2011, WeChat is a mobile messaging app developed by the Chinese company Tencent. Let’s just say this app is by far the most popular in China right now, gathering almost 1 billion users in total. If you have heard of this app, then that is most likely because of its main feature, messaging. But it doesn’t stop there, and this is where it surprises most people.
First, it’s good to know that WeChat works with millions of third-party apps. Nearly any company or organization can make an app, known as an “official account.” WeChat has become so popular that some startups launch their app on WeChat first, before making it available in the app store. Once in the main app, you can hail a cab, manage your credit card bills, order food, play games, book an appointment, and almost anything else you can think of. One thing that really stood out was the app’s ability to show population density maps that enables the user to know how crowded a place is. This could be very useful information if you are going to a mall or a museum.
Ever heard of Android or Apple Pay? Well, WeChat has their own version of that too. Users can upload their banking and credit card information which enables them to buy products or services from any official account in WeChat’s app. This app-within-an-app system makes other giant social media corporations look simple.
In early in 2015, Facebook released Messenger Platform, which lets developers build more functionality directly into the Messenger app. This allowed users to do a wide range of things that WeChat had previously. The only difference, Facebook is not available in China, which gives WeChat a very distinct advantage. All in all, innovative apps like these could move westward and start challenging major companies sometime in the near future. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
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